It’s Christmas Eve, and AMC is celebrating with a Rankin/Bass marathon. Of course, I’ve seen all of their animated specials dozens of times before… or so I thought, because I have absolutely no childhood memories of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. And I think I’d recall it: this stop-motion masterpiece, based on the works of L. Frank Baum (of The Wizard of Oz fame), is completely bonkers in the best way possible, closer in tone and style to the studio’s adaptations of The Hobbit and The Return of the King than it is to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
It’s got a little bit of everything for fantasy fanatics: dragons, fairies, wind demons, and ancient forest-dwelling spirits. This is a film in which Saint Nick’s generosity is inspired by a boyhood trip around the world, during which he witnesses mankind’s cruelty firsthand: starving serfs toiling in the field on behalf of their gluttonous lord, young samurai forced to spar in preparation for bloody warfare, and penniless orphans begging on the streets, ignored by the wealthy merchants peddling their wares at the nearby bazaar. This is a Yuletide epic that begins with a council of immortals debating whether or not old Kris Kringle deserves to live forever and ends with an all-out battle against an evil tribe of toy-stealing beast men. I regret that I missed out on experiencing this delightful holiday adventure when I was a kid… but better late than never, I suppose.
On a somewhat related note, did you know that there exists a movie called The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold? Because I sure didn’t.